Rockets-Raptors Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 6:32 p.m. ET

The Eastern Conference's best team over the past two months, the Toronto Raptors are on such a roll that not even an epic scoring effort could knock them off course.

They'll again face a player capable of such a performance Sunday night when James Harden and the Houston Rockets try to end their historic home winning streak.

Looking to move closer to the top of the East, the Raptors will chase their 13th consecutive home win by dealing Houston its ninth straight loss north of the border.

Toronto (41-19) improved to 2-0 on its seven-game homestand with an improbable 117-115 victory over Portland on Friday, overcoming a 50-point night by Damian Lillard and leaving coach Dwane Casey somewhat bewildered.

"Our guys are working at it as far as getting better defensively, and completing the play so to speak with a rebound," Casey said after his club outrebounded Portland 38-36 but allowed 114 points or more for the second time in the past three games.

DeMar DeRozan countered with a sensational effort of his own, finishing with 38 points and setting an NBA record with 24 consecutive free throws made in one game.

Backcourt mate and former Rocket Kyle Lowry scored 28 and hit 9 of 15 from the foul line to help Toronto set franchise marks in both free throws made (43) and attempted (54) en route to a team-record 12th straight win at Air Canada Centre.


Jonas Valanciunas added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who have averaged 109.5 points in their past six games. Lowry has scored 34.3 over his past four.

Only San Antonio (23-3) and Golden State (22-3) have better records than Toronto (20-4) since Jan. 6.

Now the Raptors will try to keep a close watch on Harden with a chance to move within two games of East-leading Cleveland.

Houston's All-Star guard is second in the NBA with 28.8 points per game and has averaged 36 in his last six. His 26.3 scoring average in four career visits to Toronto in his highest of any opposing venue.

The Rockets rank fifth in the league with 105.5 points per game but they've shot 42.3 percent and 12 for 70 (17.1 percent) from 3-point range in their last two.

"Any time he's on the floor, (Harden) can go off," Casey said. "The ball usually ends up in his hands, so we've got to have four other guys locked in on him. That's going to be a huge key."

Harden was a one-man show with 36 points and eight assists Saturday, though he also had nine turnovers in a 108-100 loss at Chicago. Dwight Howard scored eight and was 3 of 9 from the field after averaging 18.3 on 63 percent shooting over his previous nine.

The Rockets (30-32) had their lead in the race for the West's eighth and final playoff spot sliced to one with the loss and Utah's victory at New Orleans.

"It's frustrating, I know our guys are frustrated," interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

Houston has split this series each of the past nine seasons but hasn't won in Toronto since 2006-07. Harden scored 31 on March 30 when the Rockets was without Howard, Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley in a 99-96 loss in the last road meeting.

DeRozan had 42 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who are one win from tying the franchise record for victories against Western Conference teams with 16.